An Escape from the Rain in a Midtown Wonder

It was raining on Monday morning in New York, one of those unpredictable rains that go back and forth from a light drizzle to a steady downpour. In Midtown near Grand Central Terminal, a hurried crowd of umbrella-wielding pedestrians made getting anywhere in the rainy gloom a little treacherous. Under the scaffolding on some blocks, in narrow makeshift passageways, you had to be extra mindful of the umbrellas as individuals opened and closed them without warning. 

As Midtown is a workaholic area, many workers were also carrying tall cups of coffee. So between the umbrellas and the coffees and the fast pace, any casual sightseeing proved nearly impossible. The sound, too, was deafening, as piercing jackhammers mingled with sirens from fire trucks and police vehicles. Steam was rising in places on the street. It was the sort of dank atmosphere that could send shivers up your spine or give you pneumonia.

I was on E. 43rd Street, just east of Lexington, on my way to a meeting, and I was looking for a quick escape from the rain. I located a nearby building with an entryway, and a quick glance through the doors indicated an accessible lobby. As I walked into the space, I immediately realized I was in some place special.

The lobby of the Chrysler Building, Lexington and 42nd St., is open to the public on weekdays, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

And that place would be the lobby of the Chrysler Building (William Van Alen, 1930). Nothing could have been more surprising and wonderful on this gray and rainy morning in Manhattan. It was also dry.     

With its shimmering steel scalloped tower, its wheels seemingly in motion and fierce eagles at the ready, we easily recognize the famous Art Deco landmark from the outside. Less so for the inside. Unlike the Empire State Building, its famous contemporary, the Chrysler Building isn’t a tourist destination. It’s a working building, mainly busy on the weekdays.

Entrance to the elevators. You'll need an appointment.

The lobby is a masterpiece of design. Red Moroccan marble, unusual wood patterns, steel fixtures, and a rhythmic lighting design cast a dramatic glow over the space. Above, the expansive ceiling mural “Transport and Human Endeavor” by Edward Trumbull depicts laborers and engineers designing, building, welding, and assembling the nation’s transportation infrastructure. Curved stairwells lead to a handful of shops and subway access for further exploration. The elevator doors are a wonder to behold.

An entrance to the Chrysler Building lobby. Welcome to your Art Deco fantasy land.

So, the next time it’s raining and you’re in Midtown, look for the revolving doors. They may take you away from all that.

The lobby of the Chrysler Building is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and closed on holidays.

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from March 28, 2017.

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As this website was most active 10-12 years ago, the information is now outdated. As of July 2024, I am slowly updating the more popular and useful posts. Please pay note to the dates of the posts. Updates will be marked as such.

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